Tag Archives: Rift Prime

Rift is Past its Prime

A year ago we were running off to play on the new Rift server that Trion Worlds launched in order to harvest some of that sweet, sweet video game nostalgia so many of us seem to harbor.

The springing tiger mount was an extra cost option

Called Rift Prime, it was going to bring us back to they heyday of the Rift saga.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Little did we know that it was something of a last gasp move for Trion Worlds, which would sell its assets to Gamigo in October before being dissolved.

And the whole thing seemed to kick off pretty well.  The server was full of people.  The original content was fun.  Off we went.

However, while it was charming to start with… there was plenty of fun and memories… it didn’t seem to be able to sustain itself.  For retro servers like this, the timing of content unlocks is a key aspect, and Trion waited a long time before getting on to the first expansion.  That was a mistake.  The next expansion didn’t unlock until early October of last year, long past the point when most of the returning players had run through the content and wandered off.

Then again, the first expansion was Storm Legion, which broke the game for some people, myself included, something I wrote about at the time, and was criticized by even those who felt loyal to the game.  To my mind, Storm Legion did as much to kill Rift’s momentum as anything.  There is no mere coincidence to my mind that Rift went free to play less than nine months after Storm Legion launched.

Somebody pointed out to me in a comment thread that lots of people were there at the Storm Legion launch.  And that is true.  There was a lot of hype for it.  I was there.  But there was also a lot of hype, and huge sales, around Warlords of Draenor as well, and not too many months down the road the WoW subscription numbers were dropping so much that they stopped reporting them altogether.

So I don’t think it is entirely unfair to say that Storm Legion killed Rift, at least Rift as we knew it.

And I guess it has done it again.

A couple of weeks back Gamigo announced that they would be shutting down the Rift Prime server Vigil.  And the target date is tomorrow at midnight.

There is, of course, a plan up in the forums as to what will happen to your characters.

The Vigil server will be going away.  It won’t be merged into another server.  Characters will be moved to the US trial server, Reclaimer, and you will be able to transfer them to any other live US server from them.  Tough luck if you want them on an EU server however.

Also guilds, and things in your guild bank, all of that will disappear.  Better log in if there is something you want to save… though you do have to subscribe to get access, so it had best be worth that expense.

There are more details about what happened to souls you purchased and so on at the link.

As for lessons, I suspect there are some to be had here.

First, I think there is always an audience for this sort of retro server.   At least a day one audience.  Nostalgia, the memories of the good times, will sway people.

A good chunk of those people won’t stay for long.  Login queues and such are usually done in a week, if not sooner.

Second, those that remain will consume the old content at a rate well beyond how it went at launch.  When they run out of content and tire of alts, they will wander off as well.

Third, some games are better suited to the retro server thing in general and keeping people in content specifically.  EverQuest, 20 years old with 25 expansions, is perhaps the ideal case; big fan base, lots of nostalgia, no end of content.  EverQuest II is okay for content, it just lacks the fan base of the original.  LOTRO may find itself a bit lacking, with the Siege of Mirkwood a likely barrier for some.  World of Warcraft doesn’t have a lot of expansions, but it has a huge crowd ready to return for WoW ClassicRift however… Rift has a reasonable fan base, probably more in the EQII range overall, but it is there.  It just has the Storm Legion problem.

And so it goes. Come Monday Rift Prime will be a bit of MMO history.

Gamigo Buys then Guts Trion Worlds

I used to be on the press mailing list for Gamigo, and the opinion I formed of them based on that wasn’t exactly stellar.  They seemed like a publisher of second tier MMOs that often had names which sounded vaguely like other, more popular games.

Wasn’t there a Desert Combat mod for Wargame 1942?

There is a market in being mistaken for somebody more popular I guess.

They also bought Aeria games a while back and added their MMOs to the list.

I think the title of theirs I most recognize is Fiesta Online, though I couldn’t tell you why.  Maybe Bhagpuss played it.  I’m sure he has played others off of the long list on their site.  There is nothing that looks offensively bad there, but nothing that looks all that appealing either.  As I said, second tier stuff, a crowd of familiar ideas in an already crowded market.

So I knew who Gamigo was when it was announced yesterday that they were buying Trion Worlds.  Sort of.  I knew enough that the news wasn’t good for people working at Trion, something confirmed not much later when it was reported that 175 of the 200 employees of Trion had been let go.

Having 25 people left gives them about enough staff to keep the servers running, maybe apply a security patch now and again, and transfer control to the new owners before being let go further down the road.

So I went to look into who Gamigo was and, of course, the answer to that is a bit murky.  Gamigo isn’t a stand-alone company.  It’s own site describes it as follows:

The gamigo group is one of the leading German companies in the gaming business with more than 250 employees.

gamigo offers more than 30 online games, focusing primarily on MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) of various genres. The portfolio includes first-person shooters (i.a. S4League and Ironsight), fantasy role-playing games (i.a. Fiesta Online and Aura Kingdom), and build-up strategy games (i.a. Desert Operations and War2Glory), as well as more than 500 casual games. This variety has been constantly extended by company aquisitions (i.a. Intenium, Looki Publishing, Aeria Games) and the purchase of games licenses (i.a. Fiesta Online, Last Chaos).

The B2B area has been enlarged too. gamigo follows a clear platform strategy and is constantly expanding through the acquisition and integration of new subsidiaries (i.a. Mediacraft and adspree media). It is gamigo´s main goal to build up a diverse, unlimited and global platform for online and mobile games, and to provide its services to other players on the market.

Besides 5 German locations, gamigo operates further international offices in Warsaw (Poland), Istanbul (Turkey), Chicago (US) and Seoul (Korea).

This comes with an inspiring chart.

All with 250+ employees

Nothing screams commitment like having 25+ MMOs and 500+ casual game supported by less staff than works on World of Warcraft.  Trion had 200 staff just to handle its five MMOs, Rift, Defiance 2050, Trove, Atlas Reactor, and ArcheAge, and it was only the publisher of the last.

(Also, the description of their business model in their consolidated financial statement makes for an interesting read.)

And Gamigo itself is in a nest of companies.  It is reported to be owned by Samarion S.E. which is, in turn, owned by Solidare Real Estate Holding plc according to Bloomberg.  And they are just a holding company for Solidare Real Estate Holding GmbH, a company founded by a Turkish family 15 years back, according to its web site, whose focus is building high density housing in Germany.  And even that rolls up to Suryoyo Holding GmbH, about which I couldn’t find much, at least not without handing out information of my own.

Somewhere at the top of the tree

So it is a money machine for somebody somewhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find Russian oligarch money in the mix at some point in the food chain, probably via a subsidiary in Cypress.

As for why Trion Worlds was sold, no company stands alone.  As we saw recently with CCP, when your investors tire of you not providing a level of return they expect, they will sell you on down the line.  CCP got lucky, relatively speaking.  Trion Worlds, less so.  Their backers (because Scott Hartsmann didn’t fund this venture out of his checking account) likely wanted out of an underperforming investment.  And so it goes.

No, no we are not.

What does it mean if you play Rift, Defiance 2050, Trove, Atlas Reactor, or ArcheAge?  Today, tomorrow, and next week, probably nothing at all.  The games will keep on ticking over, the servers will stay up, the cash shop will continue to prompt you to buy.  That is, after all, what Gamigo wanted out of this purchase, an expansion of its already large stock of online games.  There won’t be much shut down… well, maybe Defiance and Atlas Reactor.  I don’t know how well those two are doing.  But the other three will no doubt be sticking around.

But if you’re used to frequent updates or special servers or live events or getting responses in the forums (or even having forums I imagine) then you’ll probably find that is about to change.  Gamigo’s community outreach seems to be mostly in the form of Facebook ads.

I feel for those who got laid off.  I’ve been down that road a few times.  Fortunately for the technical team, the economy in the SF Bay area is very hot right now (Seattle as well) and their skills are all in demand… if they want to get out of gaming and get a pay raise.  If they want to stay in that industry… well, there is EA and Zynga close by I suppose.  But it is more likely people will end up moving, one of the costs of being in the video games industry.

As somebody pointed out in the comments of the post about this over at Massively OP, there were signs that something was up, listing out a series of stories the site ran that added up to what happened yesterday.

It is, in its way, the end of another story in the MMORPG niche.  Trion Worlds started as a feisty upstart, taking on Blizzard directly, trying to out-do World of Warcraft by being more nimble and more aggressive.  There was definitely some hubris in their messages at times, something I might be inclined to pin on David Reid of “Tabula Rasa – Triple-A and Here to Stay” fame.  For example, Trion was straight up claiming that the 600,000 players that dropped WoW at one point during Cataclysm (Remember when that was a big drop?) were playing Rift.

In the end though, being small and nimble also means not making any mistakes.  Blizzard has the mass to lumber through the ups and downs, but Trion Worlds had to get things right every step of the way or face imminent demise.

For me the Storm Legion expansion stepped away from what made the game great at launch, trading tight zone design for more space that meant schlepping back and forth for quests.  That is anecdotal, but I know others who couldn’t find their way through that expansion.

But whatever happened, Trion had to make changes.  The market pretty much demanded that Rift go free to play in order to survive.  They started with what I felt was an over-generous free model and had to tighten things up later, which is always hard to justify to your players.  They ran with new titles, Defiance with its tie-in with SyFy and Trove to tap the Minecraft niche with more color and options.  They tried to be a publisher and sales portal akin to Steam with their Glyph launcher.  And they became the US publisher for ArcheAge, hoping it would be lucrative enough to put up with the heat that always goes with having to front somebody elses’ work.

In the end, it wasn’t enough for somebody.  And so we say farewell.  Trion’s games will be absorbs into Gamigo’s list.  Those that can make money without much minding will carry on, and those that can’t will disappear.

I am glad I went back and played Rift Prime earlier this year.  It gave me a taste of the early game I enjoyed.

Others covering this story:

Something Missing in Scarlet Gorge

Yes, I am still playing Rift Prime, though I haven’t spent much time there over the last few of weeks.  I’ve made a bit of progress, but events in New Eden and a growing sense of ennui has dominated my play time.

Tiger racing through the sticks, trumped by spaceship politics

While I was caught up in levels… or so I felt… I did linger about Stonefield for a bit longer to wrap up a few achievements.  Alas, I could not find two more quests to get the achievement for that, but I did find the torch up on the rocks above Granite Falls for the Dancing with Squirrels.

Stop… Squirrel Time

From there I headed into Scarlet Gorge, the next zone up the chain.

Looking into Scarlet Gorge

I did notice that, as I passed into the zone there was a quest giver standing off to one side who gave me passage through the portal into Iron Pine Peaks.  That was nice, and I filed that away for later, because in my head, IPP was a higher level zone and not something I would bother with at that point.

Scarlet Gorge started as I remembered and I ran through the initial quest chain and followed it northward up the valley until it sort of stopped at about the mid point.  It felt like I missed a chain or a turn somewhere.  I rode further up and ended in mobs that were four and more levels above me.  That wasn’t playing.  My brain seemed to insist that there was more to do, but wasn’t pointing me at anything viable.

I did recalled that I needed to go up the sky tram at the starting hub to an encampment up on one of the peaks.  There I found myself just within the right level range, but that quickly led me into Scarwood Reach.  I was still just level 27 so that did not bode well.

In looking at the map however, I noticed that I had another option.

Map of my area

I can still find references to Iron Pine Peak starting at level 41, but that appears to have been revamped somewhere along the way and was now right in the level range for me.  I took a side trip up there into the snow and ice.

So I headed through the local portal and went to play in the snow.

The quest chain in IPP seemed familiar in that way things do when you’re been away for five years but still have bits and pieces of bouncing around in your head.  IPP was not one of my favorite zones, but I hauled around there through level 28 and into level 29.

Level 29 in the snow

That done, I actually hit the portal at the west end of IPP and headed back to Scarwood Reach where I started in on the quest line there.  For some reason Scarwood Reach is another zone that I remember pretty well, so I have been following the chain of tasks there.

I’ve been here before… I know where the artifacts spawn

Scarwood Reach as a zone is pretty good and I have move through it well enough.

Overall however, momentum in Rift Prime has clearly slowed down.  The guild I am in, which was semi-active, with everybody playing at least a bit each week, has now pretty much dragged to a halt.  I may be the only one who has logged into the game in the last two weeks.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, activity in EVE Online has been eating up a good portion of my gaming time.  But the ennui bit is also a factor too.  I’ve probably played more Age of Empires II in the last week than Rift Prime in the last two weeks.  I also had a good game of Civilization II going over the weekend, though that has reached a bit of a “me vs. the world” stalemate… which I still played for a while rather than log into Rift.

I’m not calling it yet, but my nostalgia time here seems to be in peril.

No Trove of Mounts for You Today!

I have not been playing as much Rift Prime this month as I might have.  Other things have been taking up my game time like the fun in the north in EVE Online.

Still, being the completionist nut that I am, I have been logging in just about every day to collect my daily reward, mostly because on the 21st day you get a mount.  This morning was day 21… I missed a day somewhere… so I logged on to get my mount.  Damn straight!

The last box is the best box

I clicked on the claim button and… nothing happened.  Which was odd, because there is usually something that comes up in the chat window and the ability to claim goes away.  So I clicked it again and still nothing.  On the third click I noticed that an error was coming up in small red text above the rewards window indicating that my inventory was full.

Trying not to notice the alignment…

Well, dopey me, my bags were full, no wonder I couldn’t collected the mount.

Only my bags were not full.  There was ample space in my bags.  So I started tinkering around with inventory, selling a couple of items to see if maybe a little more space would help.  I checked my bank, which also had free space, just in case that somehow counted.  I looked at the mounts tab to see if there was some restriction there.  I dismounted from my own mount, just in case there was some flag that wouldn’t let you collect a mount if you were mounted.  Stranger things have happened.

But nothing helped.  Meanwhile the game, as it is wont to do, was continuing the remind me that I had a daily reward to collect, blinking a button and putting a special little icon up on the mini-map.

Yes, I know…

So I went to Google to see if this was a known issue, but there was nothing related.  So I headed to the forums.  At the top of the bug reports section I found somebody saying that they were having the same issue.  There is always a moment of relief that it isn’t just me having a problem.  A response to the report was given, consisting of a link to a post in the Rift Prime Vigil General Discussion forum.  There I found that the ability to claim the trove of mounts had been turned off.

DAILY CALENDAR: TROVE OF MOUNTS IS TEMPORARILY DISABLED

The Daily Calendar reward “Trove of Mounts” has a bad loot table and has been temporarily disabled.

The Trove will be fixed and unlocked in the next patch. No CS ticket is needed.

The box was giving out duplicate mounts (something it should NOT do) or no mounts at all. Any player that managed to collect their Trove in the hour it was available will be given a replacement Trove of Mounts after the patch goes out. Again, no CS ticket is needed.

Our apologies – I know many of you were very much looking forward to your next mount

So the ability to claim was… well, it wasn’t really turned off.  I guess making the test for inventory space always return that it was full was the most expedient way to disable the feature, but it is a bit of a pisser to spend 30 minutes screwing around trying to figure out the issue, when the problem is that I might not get a mount, or maybe a dupe.

Anyway, we’ll see if they can fix this before the month is out.  But the UI keeps reminding me that I have a reward to collect.

Catching Up in Stonefield

After my side experiment with an alt I went back to my cleric main and returned to Stonefield, the zone that is, in fact, mostly stone and fields.  Aptly named indeed.

Stonefield

However, just because Trion had adjusted the quest experience didn’t mean that I was automatically back on track.  I was still easily a level behind and had to spend a bit of time back tracking to make sure I hadn’t missed any quests as well as running the four daily quests in Granite Falls until I had gotten myself back into the sweet spot.

Despite some disdain I have heard for Stonefield, I still like it.  It isn’t up to the standard set by Freemarch, and it does seem to have been named quite literally, being made up of a lot of stone with some fields scattered about, but it has its moments.  There are some good quest lines to follow and a bit or irony.

For example, if you watch the loading screens, you might see this message go by.

Also applicable to Silicon Valley

I happened to see that one just in time to get to the point in a quest chain where the Defiants decide to summon a titan with their technology.

Just because we can summon a titan…

Of course, nobody asked the titan’s opinion on all of this and he runs amok and eventually you have to lure him back and slay him, which is a bit of a challenge as he is elite and hits like a truck.  And if you’re a level low it is even more fun.  So kiting him around was the order of the day, something doable by my cleric with his healing familiar to keep him alive.

Turning to finish him off

I’ve run through the zone, made it up to level 26, and have gotten a chunk of the achievements from around the place.

Achievement for stealing from NPCs

And the exploration achievement I got much sooner than I expected.  No need to find that corner I missed.

Exploration done

But I remain stuck on one key achievement that I want, which is for finishing up quests.  The achievement is triggered when you complete 73 quests and I am five shy of that number.  I know it is doable… or was doable… because I did it before, back in 2012.

Quest count…

I just have to find those five missing quests.

Quests seem to come in three flavors in Rift; those handed out by NPCs, carnage quests you get for killing one of a mob type, and quests from drops.  Each has their own problem.

NPC areas and their quest givers can be overrun by various rift creature manifestations, so you might missed them.  For carnage quests, you have to find and kill one of the creatures, and some of the quests are for killing one creature alone.  And quests from drops are always problematic because you might not get the drop.

We shall see.  I don’t want to move on until I have that achievement.  The completionist in me demands it.  But I have the lead-in quests for Scarlet Gorge already as well.  That post from 2012 I linked above actually has a couple of hints, so I have something to run down.  And I’ll kill some stuff along the way, just to see if I get a quest drop.

Do you have a quest drop for me?

I also have to get that squirrel achievement. Can’t leave without that.

Meanwhile, I carry on.  I remain invested enough to grapple with the next zone.

I also saw that I was getting close to the end of my 30 days of patron access, necessary for Rift Prime, so I logged into Rift to buy another 30 days with my pile of otherwise unused gems.  I found that, since I was still a patron I got a bit of a discount on my next 30 days.

How much for 30 days?

Normally it is 2,400 gems, but since I was still active it was only 2,160.  Nice.

I realize I haven’t playing as diligently as some.  There are people who hit level 50 in the first week or two who are now demanding that Trion unlock the next thing, which Trion has been cagey about when that might occur.  But I am not so far behind as to be alone.  I still run into enough people to make running around and closing rifts and such a viable activity.

Rift Prime Data Points

The dev update notes from Trion this week indicate that Rift Prime is pretty popular.

With Tiger mount his time is spent, lagging in that zone event

The update itself was to address concerns about lag people have been experiencing on the Rift Prime server during zone events.  In explaining the plan they dropped a few interesting facts that speak to the popularity of Rift Prime:

  • This may come as a surprise: Some of the zone events on Prime are bigger than even the biggest, record setting events RIFT had during its beta and original launch.
  • Since then, souls and abilities have gotten more numerous, more complicated, and more resource intensive, primarily in their use of server CPU.
  • Even with the newer hardware that the Prime cluster is running on (it’s a beast – the newest in the company), we’ve all experienced that at times it is not always able to keep up with the mass of data.
  • The reason this may affect you even when you’re personally not in a big zone event is because large numbers of people sharing your “player service” are.

So Rift Prime has seen the largest zone events ever during the life of the game.  I think this pretty much sells the idea that such servers are popular.  You can argue about whether the nostalgia factor is the draw or if it is just the idea of starting again on a fresh server where everybody is level one is what brings people to them, but this reaffirms the popularity of such servers overall.

This also corrects my own pet theory, that Trion wasn’t really sold on the idea of Rift Prime and so used whatever hardware they had to hand to stand it up.  Instead we’re apparently playing on the biggest, baddest hardware that Trion has.  Nice to know.

Finally, it is interesting to me at least that abilities that were added or updated after Rift’s early peak have come back to haunt the game with the boost in popularity it has achieved with Rift Prime.   A quote on that:

However, nothing on Live compares to the crazy things that a couple of abilities were doing on Prime. (We’re looking at YOU, Elemental Barrage and Wrathful Exuberance!)

And so it goes.

Rift Prime Leveling After the Patch

Or patches.  There were a few patches applied to Rift Prime last week, though the main one on Wednesday was the one that was probably of most interest.

Downtime Tiger caught mid-dash, please don’t let the server crash

That patch was the one set to address the quest line experience issue.

Up until the patch, if you set about to follow the various quest chains that lead you around Telara, you would rather quickly find the quest levels out pacing you, even if you diligently picked up every quest, carnage or otherwise, and spend time beating down every invasion or rift that came your way.

This is one of those delicate balance things.  I’ve oft complained about the other side of the coin, where quests are so rewarding that the quest chain in a zone goes gray and becomes trivial before you’ve reached the end of the story.

Anyway, this is one of the issues that came up almost immediately and seemed like something Trion could verify pretty easily, but it still took them two weeks to do something about it.  I know after a couple of decades in software that no fix is ever as fast or as perfect as you think it will be, but my gut says they should have tweaked this sooner… on a retro server having the right feel and pacing is pretty critical to maintaining your base… and then move on to add the tool that allows them to adjust the dial on various aspects of experience gain later.

Still, it did get done, and my initial observation was that it seemed to be about on track.  But I thought I would give is a more thorough look.  So I rolled up an alt.

On Rift Prime you are limited to two characters.  The stated reason is to force interdependence, which means that they don’t want you having all the trade skills on a single account.  That seems like a short-sighted move to me.  You truly dedicated would likely roll up and play through with one of each of the archetypes, so you’ve cut their options in half, while the very much WoW-inspired crafting system is going to make the market suffer from the usual problem of over-production of trivial items that one has to go through in order to level a trade skill.  How many tin longswords can the market absorb?  Not that many at all.

After rolling a cleric I decided my other character should be a warrior.  I had rolled one up before the patch, but did not get too far with him, so I deleted him and re-rolled another warrior with the same name, which led to a sort of odd series of inheritances.

The new warrior showed up in the world with some of the settings from the old version set.  I had tinkered with the number of hot bars and dropped out of the default guild with the first guy, and when I re-rolled and entered the world I found that those remained.  Other key settings I had to go back and click again.

Must stop those proposals

Once I got that settled I started off down the quest chain, all the more quickly for having done it so recently.  I was out of the starting area and down the path for not too long before I hit level 10 over at Kelari Refuge.

Level 10 already

The quests did seem to be keeping me in their level zone as I continued around Freemarch along the north side of the zone and through the quests and their various quirks.

And to you!

I kept running along until I got to the back end of the zone and level 16.  I felt that the tripling of quest experience had done its bit, that you could follow the quest chain and not fall behind.  I ran after rifts now and then when they were handy, and did a zone event along the way, but those don’t seem to reward enough experience to upset the apple cart, save for the daily “close some rifts or kill some rift creatures” quests.

So, problem solved, at least tentatively.  I can’t speak for how it goes beyond Stonefield, where my main is playing, but so far so good.

Of course, that isn’t the only problem Rift Prime is facing.  While queues have diminished to almost nothing even at peak times, random bouts of lag are still an issue.  I can go for a while and have no problem at all and then for a stretch NPCs don’t respond, quest don’t update, and even stages linger past their time for several very noticeable seconds.  And when that delay goes longer, it is often followed by a crash and a request for the player to respond.

Send in the report or send in the report… or cancel I guess…

And you can tell when the crash is hitting a large group of people, because then the report fails to go through as well.

Sorry, no report from you

I love me some cryptic error numbers, and there is no re-try, so whatever my computer had to report fell by the wayside.

I am sure this has been a voyage of discovery for the folks at Trion.  We shall see what was learned if they give this thing another try in a couple of years.